Branch: Air Force
Duty Station: Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam
Number of Deployments: 2
Number of PCS's: 5
Share your military spouse story:
My plan after graduating college was to join the Foreign Service. Working towards that goal I accepted a job at a news agency and was studying for the entrance exam on the side, but life changed when I fell in love with an Airman. While we were dating long distance he received orders to Japan so the options were get married or part ways (I'm sure a very familiar proposal story to many military spouses!). So within a year we were married (twice) and PCSed to the other side of the world. At first I was very nervous for so many reasons, but that was the start of what has turned out to be the BEST life adventure! Since that first PCS we have had the privilege of living in multiple countries, meeting new friends who have become family, experienced world and life events together, and so many other great things. Yes there have been the rough moments of deployments, constant long TDYs, being away from family, losing loved ones, not finding a job, finally finding a job but it pays next to nothing, quitting a job due to a PCS, etc., but through everything a constant source of strength has been the knowledge that there is an entire community that will support any way they can if I needed it. Our most recent PCS has brought us to Hawaii. So far we are absolutely loving life on the island of Oahu, look forward to learning more about our new home and meeting our community!
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
One of my proudest leadership moments within the military community was as a civilian base lead for Operation Tomodachi at Misawa AB. Right after the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami the American Red Cross kicked into gear and as the volunteer lead for the base I came right away to assist anyway I could. During the first 48 hours after families had contacted loved ones they flooded our table begging to help any way they could. From that list of volunteers an assistance operation was built and turned into part of Operation Tomodachi to support Japan disaster relief. The operation actively took place from 12 March to 4 May 2011 where I helped organize with our military leaders thousands of volunteers on daily operations to assist with clean up efforts. Working side by side with our military community volunteers, international volunteers, and Japanese neighbors was one of the most rewarding experiences. It truly showcased the best in humanity.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
Since becoming a military spouse I have centered my life on helping our our incredible military community both professionally and through volunteer work. My professional life since becoming a military spouse has spanned from being a contractor as a base tester, to a GS position in the Education office, to leading an American university program for an overseas base, to facilitating TAP classes to hundreds of transitioning service members and now I have had the privilege of working for Hiring Our Heroes, a U.S. Chamber of Commerce foundation where my efforts have concentrated on meaningful employment for our military community, in particular our military spouses. As for volunteering I led Misawa AB's American Red Cross volunteer program for 3 years, been a board member of Hiring Our Heroes Military Spouse Professional Network in San Antonio for 4 years , been a Key Spouse and Key Spouse mentor for 12 years where I was even honored one year with the USAF Key Spouse of the Year award.
Describe how you support your community:
Currently the way I support our community is mostly through my role with Hiring Our Heroes. The past two years I had the pleasure to help build up the Military Spouse Fellowship Program in San Antonio and Dallas, TX. It was wonderful connecting companies that understand the talent military spouses can offer to some wonderful professionals, who also happen to be military spouses. Now I am working on the newly launched Career Forward program where with support from Google we are helping members of the military community reskill and upskill by obtaining a Google Career Certificate of choice. Once they complete their certificate we assist them with finding employment. Aside from work I am always open to network with other military community members and our supporters. It is important that we are there for one another and we all become stronger the more we work together.
What do you advocate for? Why?
Like many before me, I advocate for military spouse under and unemployment. It is a challenge for military spouses to maintain a professional life, let alone a career, while following their active duty spouse. Personally, I have lived that reality for over a decade. Through networking and determination I have been lucky to find a job at each duty location, even when there was very limited options. Thankfully with each opportunity I learned news skills that helped prepare me for my current role. Now that I am in a position to help our military community find meaningful employment and assist companies in finding incredible talent, I would like to help be part of the collective movement that finally lowers our under employment and current unemployment rate of 38%. Not only would this empower military spouses, but it would also assist in the retention of our all volunteer force as many times the factor of needing two incomes causes military members to leave active duty service.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
Networking! I'm sure most individuals in my professional and personal networks get tired of hearing me talk about the power of networking, but it is a true world moving tool. It is the ultimate way to make real connections with people and to have some great conversations. Almost everyone who has met me has definitely had the importance of hiring from the military community, especially military spouse talent, brought into our conversations. Networking used to involve many conferences, receptions, hiring fairs, meetings, dinners, etc. but since the pandemic these conversations have moved online. LinkedIn is definitely the main platform I use, but it has been fun connecting with individuals all over the world through one on on video calls or even networking events on Zoom.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
My goal would be to unite with the AFI MSOY network and continue working hand in hand with fellow military spouses as we try to improve our world everyday. For my personal mission of being an advocate to lower military spouse under and unemployment, I look forward to the opportunities the AFI MSOY title would open to help message to companies that there is an incredible talent pool they need to be hiring. Knowledge is power, so the more companies learn about the educated, loyal, and adaptable military spouse population that they mostly overlook they will have more tools to provide to their hiring teams seeking great talent. Also, through this platform I would advocate to our country's leadership for legislation that could assist our community further. By enacting effective measures and incentives it will assist not only military spouse employment, but ultimately the retention of our all volunteer military.
Victoria Harvey is the Military Spouse Fellowship Program manager for Hiring Our Heroes in Hawaii. I am continually amazed at her dedication to our military spouses and she is very deserving of this award. She is a great example of how to love on our military community.
- by Sonia Garza